Mon, Dec 17, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Civilians dead in airstrikes on Taliban

NEW TACK:The US strikes came as coalition forces are trying to force the Taliban to the negotiating table by stepping up aerial operations, causing a sharp rise in civilian deaths

Reuters, ASADABAD, Afghanistan

Indian police yesterday try to stop former Kashmiri lawmaker Engineer Rashid, center, during a protest against civilian killings in Srinagar, India.

Photo: EPA-EFE

At least 20 Afghan civilians, including 12 children, were late on Friday killed in an airstrike targeting a Taliban commander in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar Province, local officials said.

The strike against local Taliban commander Sharif Mawiya was the latest in a series targeting senior insurgents, including the shadow governor of strategic southern Helmand Province, who was killed on Dec. 2.

Several Taliban military commanders have been killed this month by Afghan forces, backed by US advisers and air power.

The tactic has raised the risk of civilian casualties.

Abdul Latif Fazly, a member of the provincial council, said that eight women and 12 children were killed and more than 15 others wounded.

However, a spokeswoman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission denied that there were civilian deaths, saying that some civilians were wounded.

“The Taliban continue to use civilians as shields and barricade themselves inside compounds while engaging the Afghan forces,” Resolute Support spokeswoman Debra Richardson said.

She said the US airstrikes were supporting the new Afghan Army strategy of targeting the entire Taliban organization, from low-level fighters to high-ranking leaders.

“We have reports over 40 Taliban fighters were killed in the Afghan-led operations, supported by US air strikes in Kunar Province,” Richardson said.

Kunar Governor Abdul Satar Mirzakwal said that an operation by Afghan forces in Sheltan District killed 38 Taliban and al-Qaeda members, including four foreign nationals, and wounded 12 more.

The operation targeted Sharif Mawiya, a commander believed to be a facilitator with al-Qaeda militants, he said, adding that an unknown number of civilians were hit in the strike, but he had no casualty details.

“We know that a number of civilians, including women and children, have been killed, but we are sending a fact finding team,” he said.

The number of Afghan civilians killed in US and Afghan airstrikes has risen sharply this year as Western-backed forces have stepped up aerial operations with the aim of forcing the Taliban to agree to peace talks.

According to UN data, 313 civilians were killed and 336 wounded in airstrikes by US and Afghan forces in the nine months to the end of September, a 39 per cent increase from the same period last year.

Airstrike casualties accounted for 8 percent of the total 8,050 civilian casualties during the period. The overall number of civilian casualties remained about stable.

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